Shiite Shenanigans

Oil tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman. This is just over a month since the previous attacks in the Persian Gulf. Houthi rebels in Yemen, a client project of Iran, attacked oil wells and pipelines and an airport in Saudi Arabia.

The Mullahs of Iran are trying to raise the price of oil, to create a better market for their black market oil that they are trying to sell around President Trump’s sanctions.

Are they biting off more than they can chew? I saw that Prime Minister Abe of Japan happened to be in Tehran at the time of the attack, and tried to say some soothing but warning things about escalations.   One of the bombed ships is Japanese.

The Iranians are saying “it ain’t us,” but everyone knows it is them. They are saying that America bombed the ships in order to blame Iran for the provocation. Only the most virulent America-haters are going with the Iranian version, which means it is making the rounds on social media at three times the speed of truth.

 

The problem with Iran is that their theocracy puts the most ardent Mullahs in positions of power. Those guys believe their scriptures, and have internalized some prophecies that are specific to Shia Islam. They would like nothing better than to trigger the Final War that will bring about the sequence of events prophesied for the end of the world.

As a believer in sacred writings myself, I see their conviction as an admirable trait. Too bad they have determined to follow the wrong sacred writings. But I can understand them in a way that the pundits of Washington cannot. I relate to their conviction.

There is a limited number of ways to deal with Iran. Diplomacy is bound to fail unless it accompanies a strategy that addresses their religious ideas.

  1. First, convince them that now is not the time for that eagerly-sought Final War. That a war at this time would not be the eschatological end-times war, but a war that would bring the wrath of the West down on their heads and only set their cause back by a century or three. They would need to be convinced that the war that would come would be far more deadly and destructive than the wars they have observed in Afghanistan and Iraq.
  2. Alternatively, bring down the regime of the Mullahs, and install some other government that does not give primary place to religious ideologues.
  3. Third, and best, would be a conversion; a wave of Iranian people coming to Christ and rejecting the religion of false peace, peacefully replacing their own government with something good.

Any approach that simply expects more of the same; applying economic sanctions and occasionally setting their nuclear weapon ambitions back a little bit, is a bad approach. Eventually they will succeed.

I do not expect that they will succeed in triggering the wars that will bring about the End of Time. I do expect that could succeed in triggering a major war, with millions of people displaced and killed.

Lord, have mercy.

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The San Andrés Tango

Leo and Patricia sat at a table in the open air bar of the San Andrés Yacht Club, on San Andrés Island, Colombia. The Island was closer to Nicaragua and Panama than Colombia, on the Caribbean side. The island was destination party central for Colombians. A little slice of paradise for the affluent and the backpack bum and slum crowd alike.

Patricia sipped delicately from a large, icy glass holding a frozen concoction and festooned with umbrellas and little plastic swords spearing a variety of tropical fruits. Leo just drank a Club Colombia beer, though the edge of his glass was rimed with salt and there was a chunk of lemon in his beer. They languished like leisurely vacationers, watching the boats come in and out of the yacht club. The scenery was absolutely stunning. No green water off the beach; the water was a pure brilliant blue.

Patricia was watching a large luxury yacht/sportsman’s boat approach the yacht club slips. “Do you think that is him?” she asked.

Leo squinted into the sun behind his shades. “Welp, it surely does look like a 52-foot Silverton, white and aquamarine, and that thrumming I can feel in my chest from here surely does sound like a trio of MTU 8000 engines, frustrated at being throttled down, so yeah, I think it’s him.”

The Silverton hit the no wake zone and throttled way down. The boat gracefully did a J-turn and began to back into its assigned slip that the harbor master had given the pilot (channel 18 for the San Andrés Yacht Club). Two rather fulsome, bikini-clad ladies came up from below decks. I heard a man’s voice sound off with “Uno! Dos! Tres!” Both the bikini girls threw bumpers over the port side of the boat. Then they cheered and clapped for themselves like they had just solved for cold fusion. The 1-2-3 count went off again and bumpers went off the starboard side. After a final countdown, bumpers went off the stern, just as the boat reached the terminal end of the slip and, bumper protected, gently kissed the jetty at slip’s end.

The pilot, a wildman named Coker, jumped down from the cockpit and helped the ladies tie off the lines around the slip’s cleats, securing the vessel to the slip. Coker jumped up on the jetty, and with a theatrical wheeling of arms, that left both fingers pointing at the main clubhouse, hollered, “All right, ladies, grab your bags and get your booties off my boat!”

The girls sped below decks and reappeared a couple seconds later, toting one bag each. The honey blonde wearing the black bikini carried a backpack. The dark, short haired brunette in the white bikini with a full sleeve of ink on her left arm and a lot of tats on her right leg carried a sports duffle. They both leapt up on the jetty and, well, sorta smothered Coker. Jeez, thought Leo, Coker sandwich. That cat’s going to be insufferable.

Patricia said to Leo, “Our brave francotirador must have had a nice voyage traveling with such beautiful ladies.”

“Yeah,” said Leo, “I’m sure he had a grand time. Still, he wants to equal the fun we have, he’d need three, maybe four more chicas.

Patricia laid her hand on Leo’s gnarled forearm. “You are ver’ kind, mi amour.”

Then she looked at him archly over her glass. “And ver’ correct.”

As the ladies left, Leo and Patricia watched them go. No reason to rush the boat and let the bikini babes get a look at them. After a decent interval, they stood, Leo threw enough pesos down to cover the tab, and walked down the jetty to the boat. Leo couldn’t help but lamp every boat on each side as they strolled, looking for anything out of place or of concern. As they clambered off the jetty and onto the stern, Leo crouched and thumped the deck. Three times, fast and hard. Pause. One more thump. When they approached the door leading below decks, he issued the same series of knocks.

Coker met them coming down the stairs. Bro hug for Leo. Big (but not overenthusiastic, Coker had seen Leo flip the homicidal switch too many times) “you my sister” hug for Patricia, with her kissing each of his cheeks multiple times. They all sat in the great room; Coker provided beverages.

Patricia said,”Coker, I have never seen you with a beard. It looks ver’ nice on you.”

Coker grinned, and said, “Yeah, well, I was only back from The Box for two days before I got tasked to support this mission, so I figured I’d just trim the beard up a little instead of just shaving it all off.”

Patricia punched Leo in the arm. “He was only home two days!? How can you do this to him? How can you not take care of our brave francotirador?”

Leo deadpanned it. “Yeah, you’re right. If only someone had given him three weeks in Miami to get the boat reconfigured and refitted. If only someone had given him explicit guidance to spend enough time lounging in sun to even out his tan, so that he didn’t look like a farmer or a soldier. If only someone had had the first leg of his cruise be to Santa Marta to shake down the boat, and then a week to repair any damages. If only someone had arranged for a coupla hotties to make the transit with him. If only…”

Leo and Coker both leaned forward and clinked beer bottles.

Patricia snuggled into Leo, “See, I tol’ you. You do love him!”

Leo and Coker both squirmed.

“Yeah, maybe a little bit–“

“In a, you know, brother–“

“Brother-in-arms kind of way.”

“Totally not gay though,” they said in unison, and then clinked beer bottles again.

Patricia furrowed her brow, “But Coker, I am thinking, in this moment, that it was very unsafe for you to go from Miami to Santa Marta to here. Especially with those beautiful chicas on board. Who was there to cover you? To stand watch when you were sleeping…or otherwise engaged?”

Coker inclined the top of his beer bottle toward Leo. “This one’s yours, boss.”

Leo grunted and said, “Mi corazon, both of those young bikini beauties were Master Mariners. What? You think I’d leave a boat this expensive in this idiot’s hands?”

Coker laughed, “Yeah, I’m feeling the love now.”

Patricia snuggled up even harder to Leo.

“And, now that I think about it,” said Leo, “If you knocked either one of those ladies up, I gotta do a whole lot of paperwork.”

Leo grinned. “C’mon, boss. I’m a pro.”

“Uh-huh.”

A horn that sounded like a freighter’s went off, so close that the whole boat seemed to vibrate.

“What. The. Heck. Was. That?” asked Coker.

Leo shrugged. “They got a horn attached to a chain at the club. Every evening, right at sundown, they pick a tourist to sound the horn. It’s an attraction, or something.”

“Cool,” said Coker.

Coker gave them a tour of the boat. He pointed out the upgraded comms and anti-intrusion systems, the hidden holding compartments and all the upgrades the boat had undergone. Finally, he showed them the smaller, port-side stateroom that had been re-worked to unobtrusively be a full up Faraday cage stateroom; bottom line, no EMS signals were going in or getting out.

After the tour, the three repaired to the great room.

“Okay, boss. The boat is ship-shape. Heh. Now what’n heck are we doing?”

Leo reached down to his modest backpack, and pulled out a stack of folders. “Awright, hermano. I’m sure you know that the Administration has declared the IRGC a terrorist organization.” The Iranian Republican Guards Corps ran a not-so-subtle shadow government within Iran. Not only were they a big piece of keeping the Supreme Leader and his religious regime in place, they were the primary enabler for exporting Iranian terrorist activities worldwide.

“What you might not have heard, is that with the defection of IRGC General Ali Nasiri, we’ve had some targeting possibilities open up. You probably got some of the benefits of this intel in Syria, but the documents he defected with are definitely paying off in this region of the world. With the IRGC now a terrorist organization, our authorities to act against them have greatly expanded.

“In Venezuela, the Iranians are desperate to help Maduro hold on. Other than civil unrest, no effort to dislodge Maduro has caught any type of traction. The Iranians are desperate to help Maduro hang on. He’s one of the few world leaders that will overtly flaunt US sanctions against Iran, as they are subject to the same sanctions. So, we have intel provided by Nasiri, that we’ve been able to corroborate, that the Quds Force is sending over a heavy hitter to help the locals plan a way to support Maduro staying in power.

“Bottom line, we think the Quds Force are sending this cat, ” Leo flipped open one of the folders and pointed to a surveillance picture, “Pezhman Piranshahri, a full-up Colonel in the Quds Force, to lead a planning effort here in Colombia, off-site from Venezuela, to coordinate operations and activities that’ll help Maduro stay in power.”

Coker began quickly flipping through the files. “Holy Schmoley, we got a full up meeting of the axis of evil, showing up here.”

“Yeah,” said Leo. “But what they don’t know, is with the designation of IRGC as a terrorist entity, if they make any plans to conduct any actions that might come close to possibly looking something like a terrorist act, they are complicit, and suffer the same designation. They all become legitimate targets.”

“We hittin’ ’em, boss?”

Leo smiled, “We’re putting some teeth back into the Monroe Doctrine.”

Coker whistled. “I’m so in. What are my priorities of work?”

“Spend some time with the target packets. Get to know all these knuckleheads. We’re pretty sure the top Hezbollah clan on the island–and large in Venezuela–the Habkouk clan, is going to host the meet. We’re trying to refine when and where. Pay special attention to the Cuban and the Russian. They’re both bad news on steroids. I’ll have some second story work for you to do tomorrow night to help us refine the target.”

Leo handed over a cell phone. “Take this. It’s local and it won’t raise any eyebrows. Keep your cell on the boat. I’ll hand over a mission phone to you at the hotel tonight.” Leo handed over a little cardboard folder with a key in it. “Meet us in our suite in three hours. We’re at the Playa Bonita. Knock first. It’d be a shame if Patricia shot you coming through the door.”

Patricia pouted, “I would be ver’ sad if I shot you, Coker.”

“Got it. Don’t come through the door like Kramer. What’re you guys doing?”

“To make your life easier, I gotta go out and be a jerkface.”

Patricia cupped Leo’s face in her hands, “Mi amour, you are a very cute jerkface.”

*

Eli Faiyad sat behind the counter at Caballeros Grande Electronics. The young 24-year old was miserable. He had come from Lebanon, up the pipeline: Brazil-to-Ecuador-to-Colombia. The Habkouk clan had placed him in San Andrés, and he’d known he’d have to work for a couple years doing vanilla stuff and staying under the radar. Still, he hadn’t known that preparing to serve the Party Of God would be so…mercantile. He was made for better things. He could do more for the Party, and for Jihad, than he was doing now. Still, San Andrés was not so bad. And the Habkouks were not so bad. He knew if he worked hard, stayed pious and honest and kept his nose clean, he would rise up through the ranks. He also knew that as the Habkouks gained confidence in him, he would be able to do more and more work on the illicit side of the Habkouk businesses. Then, he knew, he’d be well remunerated for his efforts.

The bells over the door rang, and the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen flowed into the store. Sure, she was a whore, as all non-Muslim Colombian women were, but she was graceful and smiling and Eli wanted to move mountains for her, despite the whore that she was. She wore an open-shoulder sundress, and her smile was brilliant and bright and made Eli want to see that smile turned on him.

Before the door could fully close, it crashed open and the bells jangled angrily. A brute stalked in behind the beauty.

The brute said in English, “You happy now? Can you get what you want, here?”

She cast her eyes down, “Yes, I think so.”

“Good. Ima look around. Hurry up. We got stuff to do.”

Her smile seemed fragile and long-suffering. “Of course.”

She turned to Eli and said, “We will have some people over to the apartment we rented to entertain. I am thinking, in this moment, we need a better sound system, and a way to run streaming and CD music, can you help me?”

Of course. Eli about threw his back out rushing out from behind the counter to help her find what she wanted. He walked her up the aisle, pointing out the pros and cons of each different system available. He carefully tried to nudge her to get the DJ master mix system, the most expensive option. She seemed game.

Halfway through his pitch on the DJ master mix, the brute barreled around the corner, hollering “Are we done, yet? We been here maybe fifteen minutes already. Let’s go!”

“Almost done.”

She bent over to look at a boom box on the bottom shelf. Eli was captivated by her butt. She turned to look up at him, and Eli had a straight shot look down the front of her sundress. It about took his breath away. “Is this one any good?” she asked, batting her eyes. “Yes, very good.”

The beauty cast her eyes in the general direction of the brute. “Can I come back and pick up my items later? He is very impatient. I do not want to cause a scene.” Eli said, “Of course.”

“May I have the number here, so that I can call before I come to pick up?”

Eli jumped at the opportunity to give her his own personal cell number. “And could I get an email from you? I made need to get a written quote so that he doesn’t throw a fit or accuse me of wasting money.” Eli quickly provided his personal email.

“This email is your own, yes?” At Eli’s nod, she continued, “when we get back to the apartment I will send you an email requesting a quote.” She put her hand on his arm, “And you have been so nice, maybe there will be a special gift just for you attached to it.”

Leo and Patricia left the store, Leo with tight, rigid posture, storm clouds brewing on his brow, and his fists very nearly clinched. Leo held that affect for a couple of blocks, then sighed and let the tension evaporate.

“I hate having to perform in jerkface mode.”

“I know, mi amour. But it made me sympathetic, a little, to that clerk. He was very forthcoming.”

*

Patricia had just finished emailing the clerk when she heard, at the door, three hard, rapid knocks, a pause and a final knock. She checked her smartphone and punched up the view to the pin camera in the hall, confirming the knocker was Coker. She heard the key card hit the lock.

Coker was impressed with the setup for mission control. Because Patricia was a foreign national, there was no way The Powers That Be were going to let her be in even close proximity to their usual comms and tech. Leo had compensated by getting some of the best commercial equipment available.

Leo said, “This job, we’re going with minimum personnel and maximum tech. I got two guys in another suite down the hall. One’s a comms guy, the other’s a network guy. If any of this stuff goes down while Patricia is pulling Mission Control, they’ll be available to get her spun back up. They’re both used to handling crypto, so they’ve also got M4s and multiple cameras through the hotel and this hallway. If anything or anyone threatens Mission Control, they’ll handle it.”

“Okay, what about Mission Support?” asked Coker.

“Mission Support is back stateside. They’re fully connected to our comms suite here.” Leo dug two smartphones from a gear bag. “These are our mission phones. I’ve got them loaded up for everything I think we’ll need, but I want your review and input before we go final.”

Coker fired up the smartphone, and used the PIN that Leo gave him. He opened his DayTradR app, selected Nuveau Tekk to buy stock from, and entered a trade for $57.43. On that a whole new interface opened up. Coker began to flip through his options. Imagery for possible targets came up. Commercial imagery for the whole island opened up. Full frontal photographs of the personnel that might be targets (the app would apply facial recognition software to anyone whose face came up in the phone’s camera app; helped with positive identification (PID)). There were live feeds from numerous spycams that Leo had already emplaced on roofs, in alleys, and on streets that had a view of possible target sites. The mission phone looked good to go.

“Outstanding” said Coker. “Only thing I would add is a topographic map of the island. If I got to dive out the back of a warehouse, I want to know whether the drop will be three feet or thirty meters.” Leo nodded and made a note.

Coker looked at some of the unfilled options on the phone. “Why you got the empty expansion slots in here, boss?”

“We can’t go hot until we’ve got confirmation that the meeting participants are overtly planning terrorist actions or activities. We need ears in, so that Mission Support can confirm that they’ve crossed the line. Also, mission support will provide real-time translation on this line, so that whatever language they’re making their plans in, we’ll know.”

Coker nodded.

“Also, you’re installing the on-site ears in all the possible meet locations. You can knock that out tomorrow night, while we monitor Jaafir and Hasim Habkouk’s computers and phones to try to drill down on where the meet will be. Best as Mission Support can determine, the Habkouks have three warehouses on the island. We assess the meets will take place in one of those.”

Just then Patricia, who had been on her laptop the entire time Leo and Coker were huddling up, broke in, “Leo, the clerk has opened my email requesting a quote and downloaded the attachments. The IP address shows that he was using the store computer, not a personal.” The two attachments were photos of Patricia in her bikini, that Leo had taken the day before.

“Okay. Now we own Cabellero Grande’s computer, and the clerk’s phone, and it’s all also slaved to Mission Support. So tomorrow night, while you are playing ninja, we’ll be ransacking everything they’ve got in their boxes and refining possible target sets.”

Coker sat back, “Okay, sounds like everything is good to go. Let’s talk about actions after the tripwire’s crossed. Let’s talk about the assault.”

“Yeah.” Leo scrubbed his face–a stress reaction Coker had never seen Leo display.

“You know how I said we were going light on personnel, heavy on tech?”

Coker nodded.

“Me ‘n you are the ground assault force. That’s it.”

Coker sat back, closed his eyes, and thought about it. Then he leaned forward and placed his hand on the folders that had all the possible targets in them. He said, “we got at least three Habkouks we think will be at the meet, the IRGC turd Piranshahri, the Russian Borodin and the Cuban Abrantes–both of whom, if I remember correctly, you described as ‘bad news on steroids,’ have I got that right?”

“Yup.”

“We got no one outside, no QRF, no cordon, no sniper providing eyes on target, no air. Have I got that right?”

“Yup.”

Coker sat back again, closed his eyes and massaged the bridge of his nose–a stress reaction that he was pretty sure Leo had never seen out of him.

“I’m in, on one condition.”

“What’s that?”

“I’m first through the door.”

“You got it.”

*

Coker was in the rafters of the third and final warehouse that he had to prong. First, he’d gone into the back of Caballeros Grande and hooked them up with sound, as well as bugging their landlines. While the clerk had been fixated on Patricia and her…assets, Leo had installed two pin cameras, which had given him two different angles on the security system’s control panel, enabling them to get the on/off code for the alarms. Coker had recovered the cameras, installed a more robust, better hidden observation suite, then checked the tech with Patricia to make sure they were good to go.

Coker hooked his legs over the rafter and hung upside down. He carefully pulled out small piece of rectangular black plastic and removed a piece of plastic over the adhesive strip on one side. He then affixed the strip to the small water pipe that ran down to the fire sprinkler. Removing the plastic not only activated the listening device in the rectangle, it also started the chemical reaction that would power the device for about 72 hours. When the power ran out, the same chemical reaction would quickly reduce the device to a small dollop of black, tarry sludge. At/about another 18 hours after that, the device would be almost indistinguishable from a stripe of black mold. It would take a forensic specialist with a mass spectrometer to determine that it had ever been anything else.

Coker’s mission phone was in a clear acetate gauntlet strapped to his forearm. He tapped a one-word message that would go to mission control and mission support–Patricia in the hotel suite and the brainiacs back stateside–“check.”

He then reached up to the rafter he was hanging upside down on and softly wrapped on the metal three times fast, pause, then one more wrap.

MC: Bueno.

MS: 5×5.

He was done. That was the final installment. He pulled himself upright on the rafter and began his slow, steady exfil from the warehouse.

*

Coker returned to the boat, showered and put on some comfortable clothes, and walked to the Hotel Playa Bonita in the soft pre-dawn light. The Army called it Begin Morning Nautical Twilight–BMNT. Coker thought that the Army just couldn’t leave well enough alone. At the door to Leo and Patricia’s suite, he knocked; standard three fast, pause, one more knock. He thought about mooning the pin camera that he knew Leo would’ve put in the hall. Then he thought better of it. If one of Leo’s “guys” down the hall were a female, he could get a sexual harassment complaint. Heck, thought Coker, the way things are now, it could be two dudes and I’d still get a sexual harassment complaint. The door opened just in the amount of time Coker figured it would take to check the pin cam and pull the door stop out (Coker knew that if Leo were in a hotel room, you could guaran-damn-tee that the door would be blocked by a little rubber wedge) and Coker smiled at Patricia, “Good morning, Beautiful.”

Patricia smiled back and said, “Good morning.” Coker looked at her and made a note to himself to demand Leo count his blessings.

Coker found Leo seated at the monitor station. He had a chat session going with the brainiacs. “All right, here’s the deal. Right now mission support assesses–and I concur–that the meet will be tomorrow night, we think about 2200 hours, and we think at warehouse two. We’ve confirmed that Piranshahri flew into Panama City last night. We lost track of him after that, but he’s either headed this way or already here. More than likely, he’ll eschew hotels and stay with a Habkouk family or at one of their safe houses.”

Coker looked at Leo. “Eschew?”

“Eschew.”

“Okay. Let’s say we get the time or the location or both wrong and we hit a dry hole? Do we go into manhunting mode?”

“Negative, for two reasons. First, we are only authorized to hit all the other targets if they’re with Piranshahri and planning or doing nefarious stuff. Second, we can’t control or isolate the area if we manage to track him down and then we go dynamic. Piranshahri is a badass and he’ll fight. Too much potential for collateral damage, too much of a chance we’ll get compromised. Last thing we need to do is blow rapport with the Colombians, especially if we have to work together on overt stuff in Venezuela.”

“So if we’re wrong, we’re done.”

“If we’re wrong we’re done.”

Coker said, “Alright. Let’s put our loose course of action on warehouse two and tighten it up. Then let’s look at warehouses one and three and make some notes on how we have to adapt the plan if we’re wrong but figure out it’s one of them on time. Then let’s do a talk-through rehearsal back on two.”

“Let’s do it.”

“Patricia, my darling and the love of Leo’s life, could you please pull up all the photos I took when I was inside warehouse two?”

“Of course, my brave francotirador.”

“All right, this is what I’m thinking…”

*

Coker sat at a little cafe across the street and a little way down the road from Grande Caballero Electronics. He sipped an espresso and toggled through the comms they’d intercepted from the store, both telephonic and computer. He had carried both his mission phone and his local, Leo-supplied burner. This was Colombia; carrying two phones would raise no eyebrows. He was beginning to agree with the assessment of warehouse two. There were a lot of vague references, and a lot of idiom that were locally inspired, Arabic/Spanish hybrid words and phrases. But yeah, it looked like warehouse two was the meet site. Coker wasn’t pulling surveillance per se, but he’d wanted to digest all the Habkouk intell and figured there was no place better to do it than when being able to put eyes on Grande Caballero Electronics.

*

Vasily Borodin moved easily through the street, heading toward Grande Caballero Electronics. He had been noncommittal toward attending the meeting. The Hez were notoriously bad with their operational security. They thought they were smart and thorough, but in reality they were just too small to come under scrutiny. If IRGC was showing up, though, he didn’t trust the Hez in being able to obscure themselves or their physical, communications, or digital footprints. However, Vasily had been given the address and phone numbers of the Grande Caballero Electronics as a place he could make contact and obtain the location and date time group of the meet. Attending the meet wasn’t imperative to his country’s objectives. They were confident that the forces they had on the ground in Venezuela now with an advise and assist portfolio in counterinsurgency, population control, propaganda–basically Tyrant Power Retention 101 would suffice. But, Borodin also knew it would be a good idea to to have a sense of what the Hez and Iran would be doing. They didn’t need to collaborate so much as coordinate, to prevent redundancy and duplication of effort. Borodin also knew the Cuban, Teniente Colonel Carlos Abrantes, would be there. The Russians coordinated closely with Cuba, but Borodin didn’t trust Abrantes at all. That guy was clinically insane, and would pass on only that information that forward his personal agenda or maybe, maybe that of Cuba. There were pros and cons to attending this meet.

Borodin saw a guy sitting at a cafe, bearded with sunglasses on, idly sipping coffee and noodling on his smartphone. He immediately turned into the surf shop that was right there. He breathed a couple times, then looked out the window of the store, between the Huk fishing shirts hanging in the window. Da. He didn’t need the photo to confirm his worst suspicions but pulled up his enhanced camera app on his mission phone anyway.

He knew that guy. That guy was a veritable angel of death. Borodin had never gotten a name, a hint, or a clue as to the bearded man’s true identity during his entire time in Syria. His file just labeled him The Killer. The man was responsible for dozens of direct kills on Russian troops, advisors and Spetznaz. That was direct killing. No telling how many air strikes and mechanical ambushes this man was responsible for. The Russians had been fond of IEDs, EFPs, and VIEDs. They had trained up the loyalist Syrian forces on improving their production and employment of those devices. The Killer had shown up and employed the same explosive devices on the Russians, to devastating effect. He always hit the Russians in the places they felt the most secure in that God forsaken, war torn country. Borodin had dedicated a considerable percentage of his assets and capabilities to finding, fixing and finishing that son of a bitch, with no joy. Borodin caught a decent profile pic of the killer. The beard and shades would skew the facial recognition software, but even the best of the haphazard pics they had gleaned of The Killer had him wearing a beard and sunglasses. Many times, they only suspected it was him; times when he was wearing a kaffiyah or shemagh wrapped around his lower face.

Borodin uploaded and sent out his clandestine pic, then pulled up another app on his mission phone and set it to vacuum up every cell phone number within 100 metres of his current position, and pushed it to his mission support, with instructions to track every one of them. Vasily Borodin walked back out of the shop and walked away from the electronics shop and The Killer. He’d miss the meet, but he’d bag The Killer.

*

Coker, Leo and Patricia had had a long and tortured discussion. When they hit warehouse two, there would only be the two operators. They needed carbines. But, carbines would make getting in and out more difficult. They were going to have a hard time making an innocuous approach to the target building as it was. 2200 hours was about the time that night life in San Andrés was just getting kick-started. The island had no real concept of zoning, so there would be clubs and restaurants and bars and fast food joints and food carts all over every approach route. Leo and Coker couldn’t go in fully kitted up. Sure, they were both experienced in fighting wearing civilian gear. Still, less than optimal. Trying to stay low profile and carry rifles in would be difficult.

But, the only reason to employ a pistol in a gunfight was to gain time and space to get to a long gun. To abjure the use of rifles in an upcoming fight was antithetical to both of them.

Coker leaned back and said, “You know, this would be a whole lot easier if you weren’t built like the troll that lives under the bridge.”

“So says Mr. Spindly. What’re you coming in at after slacking off these last four weeks? 230?”

“We need smaller guys for this. Where’s Little Wilbur? We could send him up through the sewers and have him preposition our gack just inside the door.”

“He’s doing a thing over in PACOM.”

“Dang. Look, mission support should be able to tell us how many targets are actually in the building before the hit. Our camera situation, while not great, should be able to tell us how much physical security is outside the warehouse. It’s doable, it’s just if anything goes wrong, we’re bathing in weak sauce.”

“I know.”

Patricia cleared her throat, “If only you had a vehicle parked in the street next to the street near the back alley. And if only it had those M4s that you use, with extra magazines, hidden in the spare tire wheel well.”

“Yeah,” said Leo. “But parking is going to be a pain, and we got three hours til hit time. We were both scrambling all afternoon on intel and nailing down the target.”

“Yes, mi amour, you were. And what was I doing?”

“Uh, you said you were shopping…?”

“Yes, I went shopping. First, I shopped for a rental car.” She held up a set of keys, dangled them for a second, and threw them to Leo. “Then, I shopped on that magnificent boat of yours, where the brave francotirador showed us all those lovely hiding places with guns hidden in them. Then I put the guns in a duffle, put the duffle in the car, then I went shopping for a parking space on the street near the back alley.” She shot a brilliant grin at them.

“That’s it,” said Coker. “If you don’t marry her, I will.”

Patricia looked at Leo. “I remember in Machu Picchu, you had the extra car stashed away, and we escaped. I thought that was ver’ smart. I like smart. I thought an extra vehicle stashed near the alley, with guns, would be smart.”

Leo asked, “but what if the target wasn’t warehouse two?”

Patricia shrugged. “So? It costs us nothing to place the car there. If it was a different target, you could have this discussion again. The guns in the car wouldn’t be missed. Coker has enough guns hidden on the boat to…to…”

“To take over Nicaragua,” said Coker.

“Yes!”

Leo looked at Patricia and said, “Could you please pull up the imagery and cameras on warehouse two? And mark where the car is at?” Patricia nodded and moved to the monitors.

Leo looked at Coker. “Let’s get to it.”

*

Leo and Coker stood on the street corner weaving slightly. Each had a bottle of beer in one hand and a bottle of aguardiente in the other. They drank alternately from each hand, and weaved and smoked cigarettes. Two overgrown gringos, overwhelmed by the pleasures of San Andrés.

Each heard, in the blue tooth device plugged in their ears, mission support state: Targets present. Targets identified by voiceprint: Pezhman Piranshahri, Jaafir Habkouk, Hasim Habkouk, Hussein Habkouk, Carlos Abrantes.

Leo staggered and sat heavily on the brick sill of the store they were in front of. He put his head down, and mopped his brow, still weaving as he sat, looking to the casual observer like he was about to puke. He whispered “any sign of the Russian?”

“Negative.”

“All right. Doesn’t matter. Give us a go when they hit tripwire.”

Leo staggered back to his feet and swayed into Coker, both bro-hugging each other and breaking into raucous song. Then they quieted a little bit and both lit up smokes. Passers-by avoided them since they were obviously blotto. Leo began lecturing Coker on some sort of sports inanity, along the lines of “the Patriots will keep winning because they have a bench. You can have great coaching, great talent, great strategy, but if you don’t have a bench it doesn’t mean squat. Not goin’ win.”

A couple minutes into his lecture on the virtue of benches, mission support chimed in, “targets have effectively begun discussing a kill chain, and the order of assassinations most beneficial to the Venezuelan regime. Tripwire triggered. I say again, tripwire triggered.”

Leo and Coker both knew that a simple “go” would be sufficient, but every mission support comm was being recorded, and the geeks back in CONUS were stating the obvious for posterity. Coker bent over and started laughing, hands on his knees, and whispered, “Status of physical security?”

Patricia’s voice came over, “Lo mismo. Two personnel.”

Coker turned and staggered away, heading for the ally which was the approach to warehouse two’s back door. Leo seemed to sober up a little bit and walked over to a small Toyota SUV parked close to where they’d been, to all eyes that cared to watch, getting their drunk on. Leo lifted the tailgate door, upended the cover of the spare tire well, and lifted out a large gym bag. He closed the tailgate and turned to follow Coker, going slow.

Coker turned into the alley and began singing and slurring Cancion del Mariachi at the top of his lungs. He lurched down the ally, bumping, falling and leaning against the far wall of the ally from the warehouse. Two thugs were in the ally already, centered on the warehouse’s rear door. They both looked at Coker with disgust. Coker noted that they were both looking at him. The far side guy should have been looking down the other side of the ally, but no. Good. Poorly trained. The near side guy approached Coker and put his hand up, Yelling at Coker to stop and turn around and go away. Coker drew the suppressed High Standard .22 and drilled the guard twice in the chest and once in the face. The guy was dead but didn’t know that meant he should fall down. Coker pushed through him and hit the far side guy the same way. That guy knew how to die proper, and immediately sagged to the street. Immediately Leo came around the corner bearing a sports duffle on one shoulder. He stopped, opened the bag, and extracted two suppressed M4 carbines. Both pulled night vision monoculars from the bag and strapped them on. Coker pulled up his mission phone in the same gauntlet before and sent “1.” It would take two to four minutes to shut down the lights; Coker and Leo spent the time grabbing and stowing magazines for their carbines. They were already wearing their pistols under their lightweight jackets. Both had their Glock 21s with the suppressors already screwed on, so they were wearing them in shoulder holsters. Neither operators were fans of shoulder holsters, but with the cans on, what’re you going to do?

The power went off in a two block radius. Leo pulled up the sleeve of his jacket, exposing a plastic, mission-phone holding gauntlet like unto Coker’s, and sent “2.” One minute to firecrackers. Meanwhile, Coker had slapped a thin sheet of explosive over the door knob of the warehouse’s back door. They both stepped to either side of the door.

Leo pulled two flash-bangs out, one in each hand. He held out his hands and Coker adroitly pulled the pins out of each grenade. The one minute clock set by Leo’s text ran out, and in two places nearby, fire crackers started crackin’ off. Not unusual in party-central. As soon as the firecrackers started firing off, Coker blew the door. Leo stepped forward and threw the flash-bangs and rotated back away from the door. Because of the size of the warehouse, they knew the flash-bangs wouldn’t have their usual devastating effect. The sound and concussion might–might–not incapacitate every one in the place, but the blinding flash should give them the moment’s edge they need.

As soon as the flash-bangs detonated, Coker went in. Carbine up, IR light on, night vision tracking his IR laser pointing a straight line from the barrel to whatever target he came across. Leo followed immediately behind Coker. Coker broke left, Leo broke right. There was a cheap card table in the center of the warehouse, with pallets crowding all the walls. The individuals around the table were in definite disarray. Two had pulled pistols. One of the pistoleers was firing wildly toward the door. The Cuban guessed Leo. Leo put a controlled pair into the Cuban’s chest, traversed up and put one in his head. Cuban down. The other that was up with a pistol was probably the Iranian. Leo tracked over to him, but saw him go down under Coker’s fire. The rest were a mess, discombobulated and lost. Coker and Leo ended them.

Coker provided overwatch while Leo photographed each corpse. There were a couple laptops and a tablet on the table. There were three cell phones on the table; two of the corpses had their cells on them. Leo scooped them all into a canvas bag he’d had tucked into his belt. They exited, and stuffed their carbines into the gym duffle that they’d left outside by the door. Total time of engagement: 37 seconds. Total time inside the warehouse: 3 minutes, 52 seconds. The firecrackers were just tapering off as they threw the bag into Patricia’s rental vehicle. As they drove off, the lights in the neighborhood began flickering and turning back on.

*

Back at the hotel, Leo and Coker each cracked a bottle of water and guzzletld. Patricia had a look of profound relief on her face. Mission support, monitoring comms on the island, had not discerned any alerts or BOLOs. So far so good.

“If we scarper tonight,” said Leo, “it’ll be too big a signature. I’ve already pushed the pics of the targets to mission support. So tomorrow we’ll have a leisurely brunch, then I’ll go out and ditch our local phones. Coker, you start cracking the tech we picked up on the objective. We’ll pull out in the boat just after sunset. Good?”

“Good,” said Coker. “See you at brunch.” He hesitated and said, “So, are those Master Mariners still on the island?”

“They are.”

“You got their contact information?”

“I do.”

“Flip it to my local phone?”

“Done and done.”

Coker got up, fist bumped Leo, hugged Patricia, and left.

“He will be okay?” asked Patricia.

“Sure. He just needs some happy-to-be-alive sex right now, is all. This went off way better than it should have.”

Patricia moved up to Leo, “And what about you?”

Leo considered, “Well, I’m pretty happy to be alive, too.”

Patricia straddled him and kissed him gently on the forehead, then the lips. “I am thinking, in this moment, you need some happy-to-be-alive sex, too.”

Leo theatrically considered it, and said, “Yeah, baby. Yeah, I do believe I do.”

*

Borodin had his mission support screen all the phone numbers he’d sucked up the day before. He had tried calling his Habkouk clan contacts, but they were frantic and unintelligible. Borodin did the math.

Mission support had three tracks of interest. He immediately knew which one was key. He pulled up his map app and found a route to the San Andrés Yacht Club. That is where The Killer would be.

*

Leo was off cleaning all the support personnel that had no idea why they were on San Andrés island, but were on call should he have needed them. His “comms guys” down the hall from his suite were to break down the whole communications package, pack it up and ship it out. Then they were to change hotels–in order to “reduce signature”–and hang out for three days. Leo figured that life would suck enough for these kids on down the road. Hey, they were military and the military prided itself on the suck factor. So, he moved their hotel, gave them three days off, and then promised doom and the Four Horsemen upon them if they screwed up. They’d be a’ight.

Patricia walked the bag of tech from the targets down to Coker. Coker and Leo wanted to exploit as much as they could in the Faraday state room. She got to the boat, and knocked out the three-pause-four beat that she had realized was an informal near recognition signal between Leo and Coker. Coker took the bag and put it in the Faraday room, then they chatted for a little while. Patricia understood immediately that Coker was stringing her along, and acting like a shallow, self-absorbed person. This disturbed her, a little, because Coker was anything but shallow. She found him, though, impenetrable, and so after some chitchat left to go do some shopping while Coker tried to prong the tech in the Faraday stateroom.

Patricia walked up the jetty, toward the club house. As she did, she passed a man that gave her pause. Patricia had been in the game more than a while, so it didn’t literally give her pause. But as she strolled by him, her mind raced and she realized that he was the Russian that was a no-show at the meet. He had to be heading to Coker’s boat. Patricia couldn’t break stride, couldn’t show that anything was amiss. She kept up her stroll. Coker was in the Faraday room, she couldn’t call him on her cell. There were no cables running into the Faraday room; calling the boat on the harbor master’s radio was useless. Patricia thought about pulling her pistol out of her purse and shooting the Russian in the back, but that course of action had no good outcomes. Then, an idea bloomed in her mind. She increased her pace and stride a little without appearing to speed up; that would give the game away.

When Patricia got to the bar, she arrowed straight to the chain to the freighter horn that they blew every night. She dropped her purse on a nearby table, grabbed the chain, and blew three short blasts out the horn, paused, then pulled the chain for a slightly longer blast. Then she did it again. And then again. One of the waiters rushed up to get her off the chain; that was only for sundown. That was okay, after three reps, Coker either got the message or he didn’t. Patricia let go the chain and gave a brilliant smile to the exacerbated waiter. “That was so fun!” she cried. She started walking back toward the jetty and the boat. She pulled her small pistol from her voluminous purse and used the purse to cover the fact that she had a gun in her hand. Coker either got the message or he didn’t. Either way, the Russian was dead.

Coker sat in the Faraday room working on cracking the tech they’d gleaned from the objective. Any intelligence they pulled could be actionable in the near term. He was absorbed in the task, trying to ensure he used the right tool to get a righteous crack on the IT devices that he had. He noted in the background that the bar freighter horn was sounding off. Jeez, that thing was loud. The horn went off again, and alarms went off in Coker’s head. That was the three-beat-one rhythm that he and Leo used, like, all the time. Naw. The horn went off a third time and Coker moved fast. That’s not a coincidence. He exploded out of the Faraday room and swiped his Glock of the table in the great room. As he did, he saw the door begin to open and a silenced pistol emerge, pointing into the room.

Coker hit the below decks door with his shoulder, pinning the silenced weapon and the forearm behind it in the door. He pinioned the arm inside the door as hard as he could, put the suppressed muzzle of his pistol at waist height a couple inches from the door and drilled three shots into the door. The bullets hitting the door made a weirdly subdued “thunk” sound, and Coker didn’t notice any reduction in piss and vigor from the cat on the other side. Oh, yeah, I bulletproofed this door. How did I not know that? What a dumbass.

Coker dropped his pistol and grabbed the wrist attached to the gun that was trying to put rounds into him. He applied pressure and stripped the pistol out the guy’s hand. Then he pulled the wrist, let go his pressure on the door, and threw the guy into the boat’s great room. The guy immediately bounced up and came at Coker. For a few frantic seconds, the two exchanged egregious blows with knees and elbows and open palm strikes. Coker landed a vertical elbow on the crown of the guys head and dropped him. The guy immediately, from the ground, grabbed Cokers ankle and sucked it into his armpit while he tried to writhe his legs up Coker’s. Heel hook, Sambo, this guy must be the Russian, thought Coker as he dropped his knee into the guy’s face, and then stood and knee dropped again. The Russian let up, and Coker next dropped his knee into the Russian’s stomach. The Russian’s upper body spasmed up, and Coker grabbed the Rooskie’s inside arm and levered him over to his stomach. Then he sank his choke. Then he held his choke. Then the Russian died.

Coker sighed, and rolled over–to see Patricia pointing a gun in his face. “Uh, bad guy dead. Good guy won. Put the gun away?” She lowered the gun.

*

As the boat pulled out of San Andrés, Leo, Patricia, and Coker were all in the cockpit.

Coker said, “We can do a burial at sea in about 40 minutes. Do either of you want to say any words over him before we sink ‘im?”

Patricia shook her head, and Leo said, “No. I start talking about this guy, it’ll get really profane really quick.”

Coker nodded. “So, we work our way up to Miami, then what’s next boss?”

Leo said, “You go back to your unit, I take some time off. Patricia has never been anywhere in the US but Miami, so Ima give her a tour of the real US, with her looking at it from the back of my Harley.”

“Girl, you ain’t seen nothin’ but the 305? You definitely need to spread your wings.”

“Yes,” said Patricia, “I think that would be a good idea.”

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This Week’s Book Review – Painting War

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) After my review appears on Sunday, I post the previous week’s review here on Sunday.

Book Review

‘Painting War’ a fascinating, meticulously researched work

By MARK LARDAS

May 25, 2019

“Painting War: George Plante’s Combat Art in World War II,” by Kathleen Broome Williams, Naval Institute Press, 2019, 312 pages, $29.95

George Plante was a commercial artist before World War II. From Scotland, he was in London illustrating advertisements when World War II started. He wanted to serve his country.

“Painting War: George Plante’s Combat Art in World War II,” a biography by Kathleen Broome Williams, tells what happened next.

Plante discovers that the RAF, the Navy and even the Army were uninterested in him in the spring of 1940. A navy recruiter suggested Plante volunteer for service as a radio operator aboard merchant ships. Wartime requirement tripled the needed number of radio operators. Plante applied, went through training, and served from 1941 through 1943 as a radio operator in the North Atlantic.

It was the most dangerous period of the war to serve in the Merchant Marine. Plante’s ships, tankers, were twice torpedoed and sunk (the second sinking occurred while he was on leave awaiting the birth of a child). Plante spent his spare time between watches painting. His artwork came to the attention of the British Information Service. The BIS’s role was shaping American public opinion in Britain’s favor before American entry into World War II. The BIS wanted Plante’s artwork and Plante for propaganda purposes. The America-loving Plante made a great interview subject.

After Plante’s second tanker sank, Ian Fleming recruited Plante into the Political Warfare Executive. Plante finished the war in the Mediterranean illustrating propaganda leaflets and newsletters. The material was parachuted into the Balkans and Occupied Italy. Plante’s activities remained classified for years.

Once the war ended he returned to life as an adman, enjoying a successful career. He retired to the United States, settling in Hilton Head.

Kathleen Williams, a professional historian, was also Plante’s stepdaughter. She grew up entertained by her stepfather’s amusing stories of his wartime experiences, but in the universal manner of children, thought them just stories. After his death, realizing their significance, she set about writing a serious biography of his life. The result, “Painting War,” is both a fascinating and meticulously researched work. It also shows that sometimes the best history comes from the stories you grew up hearing.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.

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Memorial Day Plans

This Memorial Day is different. Mostly, I start my Memorial Day by letting JoALT et al sleep in while I hie myself to a breakfast spot to get a quick meal and then go into the annual Memorial Day rotation – traveling to different places in my town to remember my departed comrades.

First up is the crew of Hulk 46.  The aircraft was lost off Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory, on February 3rd, 1991. Three of my friends lost their lives in the crash.  Here is a website talking about the specifics. I’ll visit with them when I go see my aircraft from the 1st Gulf War, “Nine o’ Nine II” on permanent display at Barksdale AFB.  You know you are getting old when an airplane you flew is on display at a museum.

While I am on my way back to the Global Power Museum, I’ll stop by the memorial for Raidr 21, lost off Guam in 2008. Maj Cooper and I did B-52 Qual training together in 1999 at Barksdale. JoALT met him while she was visiting one time before we married.

Then it is off to go see Mats. Col Mark Matsushima hired me onto his AOC Strategy Division team in 2003, basically giving me the position to do operations research in support of campaign analysis, a job I do today. He helped me get my foot into the door. He passed away from cancer in 2010 and is buried here in Shreveport.

Lastly, I’ll stop by a park near the Norton Museum to just sit and reflect on my USAFA classmates who are no longer with us, starting with those we lost while still in school up to present.

Not tomorrow. Tomorrow is going to be a long day for everybody, as JoALT and the kids get on a 7AM flight to Singapore. They will be there by Tuesday 10:45 Central. I’ll just take a nap or something and start my rotation a little later.

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Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends….

We have reached a nexus, a tipping point, where one deflection may echo down the centuries.

As the remnants of national democracy align against elite totalitarian rule, USA, Japan, India , Brazil and Trump versus China and the Globalists….

As the media/democrat/deep state complex holes up in the Fuhrerbunker of Impeachment…

Trump has unleashed the BARR and given him the power to destroy by truth.

A mistake or overreaction could result in blood in the streets or worse, legal action.

Tread lightly, trust no one, always have an exit plan.

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Charles Lindbergh, who knew?

I didn’t know that during WWII, Charles Lindbergh visited the flyers of P-38 Lightnings and he taught them how to get phenomenal mileage from their planes.

Everywhere Lindbergh went in the South Pacific, he was accorded the normal preferential treatment of a visiting colonel, although he had resigned his Air Corps Reserve colonel’s commission three years before. In Hollandia, Lindbergh attached himself to the 475th FG, flying P-38s. Although new to the aircraft, Lindbergh was instrumental in extending the range of the P-38 through improved throttle settings, or engine-leaning techniques, notably by reducing engine speed to 1,600 rpm, setting the carburetors for auto-lean and flying at 185 mph (298 km/h) indicated airspeed which reduced fuel consumption to 70 gal/h, about 2.6 mpg.

That one man through knowledge of aircraft could singlehandedly extend the range of fighters without adding fuel tanks or costly overhauls is a credit to his genius.

What I didn’t know about Charles Lindbergh was his ideas were not all he shared. He fathered thirteen children by four different women. One he was married to, two were sisters, and was his secretary. He was 55 when how should I say started a Germany “Subsidiary”.

Beginning in 1957, Lindbergh had engaged in lengthy sexual relationships with three women while he remained married to Anne Morrow. He fathered three children with hatmaker Brigitte Hesshaimer (1926–2001), who had lived in the small Bavarian town of Geretsried. He had two children with her sister Mariette, a painter, living in Grimisuat. Lindbergh also had a son and daughter (born in 1959 and 1961) with Valeska, an East Prussian aristocrat who was his private secretary in Europe and lived in Baden-Baden.[203][204][205][206] All seven children were born between 1958 and 1967.[207]

Did you know about this?

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The Threat of China

China has been attacking the U.S.A. ever since the days of Richard Nixon, in many ways subtle and not subtle.   But their attacks have grown more devious, more corrupting, and are preparing them for assaults on America that will be devastating when they are unleashed.

Yes, they have been spying and stealing technical secrets, violating copyrights, trademarks and the plain language of contracts for decades.   But the current state of affairs calls for a confrontation, and I am glad to see President Trump bring a confrontation that is clever and likely to succeed.

I am not prepared to debate the trade issues in the tariffs dispute.   What has me concerned at the moment is the leverage China is gaining over our internet.   It appears that evil Google is preparing to act as an agent of China to destroy America.

I think that if things keep going the way they are, China will position themselves to be able to kill American internet and cellphone communications, while disabling large portions of basic utilities such as electric power transmission and landline phone communications.

I will put links in a comment.   The first item is testimony this week by FCC Chair Ajit Pai, regarding the threat posed by Huawei if they could get embedded into our cellphone services:

“What I will say,” Pai told [Sen. James] Lankford, “is I believe that certain Chinese suppliers, such as Huawei, do indeed present a threat to the United States, either on their own or because of Chinese domestic law. For example, China’s national intelligence law explicitly requires any individual or entity subject to that law to comply with requests to intelligence services.”    He said that poses a problem for 5G networks deployed in one country that could be managed by software that is resident in another country.

The second item is a column at American Greatness by Brandon J. Weichert:

“A greater synthesis between the national security sector, the business community, academia, and the political leadership of the United States is needed if we truly and effectively want to prevent American tech firms from building the weapons of tomorrow for China to use against us today.”

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Navy Force Structure

The U.S. Navy has plans.  They want to build ships.   In fact, they want about ten new ships per year for the forseeable future.   I am generally in agreement that I want America to have a strong navy.

A new briefing paper was just released today by the Congressional Research Service.   They have a bunch of background information for Congress.   The people who read this are staffers who work for congresscritters and a ton of Beltway Bandits.   But just for your edification, here are a couple of key paragraphs from the executive summary.   I will put a link in a comment.

The Navy’s proposed FY2020 budget requests funding for the procurement of 12 new ships, including one Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) class aircraft carrier, three Virginia-class attack submarines, three DDG-51 class Aegis destroyers, one FFG(X) frigate, two John Lewis (TAO205) class oilers, and two TATS towing, salvage, and rescue ships. The Navy’s FY2020 five-year (FY2020-FY2024) shipbuilding plan includes 55 new ships, or an average of 11 new ships per year.

The Navy’s FY2020 30-year (FY2020-FY2049) shipbuilding plan includes 304 ships, or an average of about 10 per year. If the FY2020 30-year shipbuilding plan is implemented, the Navy projects that it will achieve a total of 355 ships by FY2034. This is about 20 years sooner than projected under the Navy’s FY2019 30-year shipbuilding plan—an acceleration primarily due to a decision announced by the Navy in April 2018, after the FY2019 plan was submitted, to increase the service lives of all DDG-51 destroyers to 45 years. Although the Navy projects that the fleet will reach a total of 355 ships in FY2034, the Navy in that year and subsequent years will not match the composition called for in the FY2016 FSA.

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This Week’s Book Review – Admiral Gorshkov

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) After my review appears, I post the review here on Sunday.

Book Review

‘Admiral Gorshkov’ a biography of the Soviet Navy’s architect

By MARK LARDAS

Apr 28, 2019

Admiral Gorshkov: The Man Who Challenged the U.S. Navy,” by Norman Polmar, Thomas A. Brooks, and George E. Feederoff, Naval Institute Press, 2019, 304 pages, $39.95

Historically, Russia has been a land power, with large armies and limited mobility. Yet during the 1960s and 1970s, during the Soviet era, it built an oceangoing navy to challenge the United States at sea.

“Admiral Gorshkov: The Man Who Challenged the U.S. Navy,” by Norman Polmar, Thomas A. Brooks, and George E. Feederoff, is a biography of the architect of that Soviet challenge.

Born in 1910, Sergei G. Gorshkov grew up in the new Soviet Union. He bypassed the university to enter the Frunze Naval Academy in 1927. When a Communist Party screening committee asked why, a then-teenaged Gorshkov replied, “I will be more useful serving in the Navy than doing anything else.”

As this book shows, he proved correct, rising to be the longest-serving commander of the Soviet navy and the longest-serving admiral to command the Soviet navies since its establishment by Peter the Great.

After a brief period as a navigation officer in the Black Sea, he spent his career before World War II, from 1932 through 1939 in the Pacific, where he rose to command of a destroyer brigade. Reassigned to command of a Black Sea cruiser brigade in June 1940, he spent World War II in the Black Sea, the one theater in which the Soviet Union could significantly challenge the Axis at sea. Gorschkov amassed a remarkable record of achievement during the war years, gaining the trust and friendship of Nikita Khrushchev, then a senior political officer.

Remaining in the navy at war’s end, his career took off after Khrushchev took charge of the Soviet Union in 1956. Gorshkov was given command of the Soviet navy and the freedom to rebuild it as he saw fit. During the next decade, he created a navy that threatened the supremacy of the United States navy — then the most powerful in world history. Gorshkov did this by creating a force balanced between submarines and surface ships, one providing a serious challenge within the limitations of Soviet resources and goals.

“Admiral Gorshkov” is a fascinating portrait of a man who was the U.S. navy’s most dangerous 20th century adversary.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.

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This is a Strange Story About UFOs

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/27666/what-the-hell-is-going-on-with-ufos-and-department-of-defense

I’ve been skeptical about UFO claims since the 60s. Phil Klass was more my style.  He also did excellent reporting about the early days of GPS.  What do you think about this story. Was it another case of Dime trying to impress his girlfriend.

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